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25.02.2020 Opinion

Off 'oldboyism' And 'girlism': The Unwarranted Behaviour Of The Church And Old Students In The Perpetuation Of Sectionalism In Ghana

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The provision of educational infrastructure by most governments in developing countries has always not been adequate. The demand for educational infrastructure far outstrips the financial strength of most governments. Governments in less endowed countries have received support from donor agencies through aid. Prominent businesses operating in the jurisdictions of such countries have also supported in the provision of educational infrastructure. Indeed some prominent citizens of the land have also assisted including old students of various Second Cycle Schools, especially in Ghana.

One important stakeholder whose contribution towards the development of education in Ghana which cannot be overlooked are religious bodies. Most outstanding Senior High Schools across the length and breadth of our dear motherland have had their beginnings from missionaries or churches. Because of this background, there are a lot of stakeholders in the running of such schools in Ghana.

With this background, the board that governs senior high schools has a lot of stakeholders including representatives from the church, the old student association, teaching and non-teaching staff, traditional authority, the assembly, the head teacher plus others depending on other dynamics.

OLD STUDENTS AND THE CHURCH

Old students associations depicts that, the school already exist. The well-endowed schools or most schools that have existed over seventy years have very strong old students associations who have contributed immensely towards the development of their alma mater.

According to a story on 21st of August, 2019 on modernghana.com and titled "Accra Academy Old Students Committed to Provide Accommodation", the story said, the President of the Accra Academy Old Boys Association, Mr. Emmanuel Bruce-Attah has reiterated the Associations commitment to provide adequate accommodation facilities for the teaching staff of the school to enable Accra Academy attract the best of teachers. The story continued that "Mr. Bruce-Attah lamented Accra Academy has recently lost some quality teachers to other schools due mainly to lack of accommodation on campus" (modernghana.com). Similarly on December 31, 2019 GNA story written by Edmund Quaynor read that, the 1985 year group of GHANAS Old Students Association (GOSA 85 & GOSA- UK) has presented the first batch of 100 mono desks to their alma mater. It is part of the old students vision to provide 1,500 mono desks as promised to the school under the one old student, one mono desk project. During the presentation of desks to the school, the National President of GOSA, Mr. Emmanuel Poku Sarkodie, said the gesture was the contribution of the old students toward the development of the school.

In order to enhance teaching and learning, the Old Students of the Bolgatanga Senior High School (BIGBOSS) in the Upper East Region have donated some logistics to their school. The Association presented two servers, 18 Samsung tablets, 10 USB WIFI dongles and 10 Computer SDRAM memory cards to help upgrade the ageing computers in the schools ICT lab. The President of the Association said, they have supported the school with an amount of GHC24,500.00 to procure 13 electronic books (e-books) in Physics, Science and Mathematics, some quantities of hard copies of Biology, Mathematics and Chemistry books (www.newsghana. com.gh).

On the 15th of May 2019, St. Augustine's College old students launched activities as part of their 90th anniversary. The old boys have decided to help their St. Augustine College with the provision of infrastructure to help with the increasing numbers due to Free Senior School policy. Also, they intend to refurbish and rehabilitate the schools library which are among priority projects they intend to complete.

The 1989 year group of the Old Boys Association of the Adisadel College in Cape Coast is undertaking a number of projects for their alma mater. The group have purchased a US$30,000 electricity generator to beef up the supply of energy for the school. They intend to also donate a number of streetlights to the school and present the generator to commemorate the schools 104th Speech and Prize-giving Day.

Old students associations have done a lot and continue to do more for their alma mater. But, the above notwithstanding, some old boys and girls of these endowed senior high schools are over stepping their bounds in the management of such schools. It has become the customs of these so called grades 'A' schools to always scheme for an old boy or girl to become the headmaster or mistress of their schools. Why should that be the case?

There are very difficult situations where an old boy or girl who is teaching in his or her alma mater might not necessarily qualify to head the school. These old boys would move tooth and nail to scout for an old boy from another school to come and head their school even though the individual might not have necessarily contributed in any shape or form in maintaining the standard of the school. Meanwhile, there are very disturbing scenarios where other teachers who have served for about 15 or 20 years in a particular school and are due to become the head of the school but the old boys would disagree or influence the authorities to get an old boy or girl to become the head. What is even worrying is that, a teacher who attended a different school has been found fit enough to teach in these schools but when the opportunity comes to same persons to ascend the highest position of the school then, the old boys disagree, how unfair can that be?

The argument has always been that, an old students understands the traditions of the school and can help propagate same when s/he becomes headmaster. The point is, a teacher who has immensely contributed in maintaining the status quo of a school for over 15 years even though wasn't an old student cannot understand and appreciate so called values of the school to implement same?

Some old students attended their alma mater for a maximum of 7 or 5 or 2 years in the old system of secondary education. With the current system the maximum would have been 4 years. How can a student who spent less years in a school be better in managing the school just because he is an old student than a teacher who has served same school over a decade?

To support such interference above, on the 2nd of March, 2019 a story captioned "Adisco old boys to withdraw support from school over transfer of headmaster". The story said national President of the Adisadel College old students Association, Professor Kojo Yankah has revealed there has been a decision among the old students to withdraw all their support to the school for government to carry all the responsibility to develop the school.

According to him, there is a serious misunderstanding among the old students regarding recent happenings in school which has led to the interdiction and transfer of their hard working headmaster Mr. William Kusi-Yeboah. Prof. Kojo Yankah further stated the old students are perturbed about the happenings to the headmaster because the situation is seriously affecting academic work on campus. This is to me was threat that should not be taken seriously.

In as much as the old boys and girls assist their alma mater, it does not give them the right to threaten government. On this particular matter, a teacher nearly fought myself and my brother on Adisadel Campus. We just happen to be on campus when the old boys of Adisco were holding a press conference in support of the interdicted headmaster, Mr. William Kusi-Yeboah. The headmaster had been involved in deals that tarnishes the image of the school and that of the GES. I was very amazed the old boys were up in arms and to his rescue. In a conversation between us and some other persons who had gathered outside the venue of the press conference, I retorted that, the school doesn't belong to the old boys and they cannot dictate same to government as to who heads the school. One employee got angry and spoke on top of his voice claiming the school belongs to the old boys. He asked "do I know the contributions of the old boys"? I asked him, "How can a beneficiary of a school be the owner"? And if there was no school, there wouldn't be any old student. This conversation nearly escalated so I had to calm my brother (Patric Nyarko) down and we left.

In a related issue, the Board of Governors of St Augustines College, Cape Coast, which the old boys are part has asked the Ghana Education Service (GES) to reverse its decision to interdict Mr Joseph Connel, the headmaster in the interest of natural justice. The headmaster of St Augustines College is said to have charged each fresh student GH¢435 as Parent, Teacher Association (PTA) levy, a charge the Ministry of Education and the GES have labeled illegal. With this offence, the Board Chairman Rev. Fr. John Manso Hamilton signed a letter dated October 17, 2016, which was addressed to the Director General of the GES, observed that Mr. Connel's interdiction for allegedly charging unapproved fees, was flawed in many ways.

Old Students Association are not compulsory and no one is under any obligation to contribute towards his or her alma mater. One does so at his or her own discretion, freewill and the love to contribute to a school which has helped to shape you, but cannot use same as template to direct the Ghana Education Service or the Ministry of Education to treat an erring head with kid gloves all because of the pressures from old boys or girls.

What is even tormenting my thinking is the involvement of religion or the Church in the entrenchment of sectionalism and teaching same to students in all the missionary schools in Ghana be it Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian or Anglican. In some of these schools, being part of the church is an automatic criteria for students to ascend certain positions of the schools. These include: School Prefect, Assistant School Prefect, Dinning Hall prefects must necessarily be members of the church and I ask why? These are secular schools even though they were started by missionaries, so why have we allowed such unnecessary division to fester on till now and all governments both present and past have remained silent over the issue? In a school where African Tradional Worshippers, Muslims, Bhuddist, Hindus, Methodist and person from other religious persuasions have been admitted as students, why would the school discriminate against other students because they are not Catholics or Methodist, etc. as the case may be? It means right from day one, the church is part of our problem instead of being part of the solution. They are teaching our brothers and sisters the values and doctrines of their church and so electing a prefect who isn't a member of the school is unacceptable to them. This is discriminatory against others students on religious lines. Do we need a student who has all the qualities to lead the school or we need someone who is aligned religious wise?

This brings to the fore the failure of the state to have a unified national character building values. If the state has such a policy, then that ought to be the guiding principle for all teaching and non-teaching staff across all our Second Cycle Schools. If that were the case, then, the overemphasis on old students and the church insisting on their kind heading the schools wouldn't have arisen. After over sixty years as an independent state, we are teaching our children religious and sectional values which doesn't necessarily reflect our values as a people. But, rather the perpetuation of selfish religious beliefs and values thereby encouraging students to belong to their fold.

I know of some very difficult situations where teachers who aspire to head the religious schools they are teaching in have left their churches to attend the church of the school in order to enhance their chances should the opportunity of headship arise. Why should that be the case? Are we not the Christians having the same faith? Is the church not encouraging and entrenching divisions amongst us eventhough Christians?

The problem the old boys and girls of well-endowed schools are encouraging are the same things churches are also preaching. For one to ascend the headship of these schools, the teacher must necessarily belong to the church in which school he or she is teaching. Why would the church do that? If an Anglican teacher is teaching in a Catholic school and is due to become the headmaster, why would the Catholic mission insist that, the person should be a Catholic? Are they saying that a teacher who has been part of the school for over 10 years wouldn't be able to head the school just because he or she isn't a Catholic or Anglican or Methodist? Hasn't the teacher of the school gathered enough experience or better still be acquainted with the school's rules, procedure and policies in how the school is run? So why insist that s/he must necessarily be a member of the church in whose schools s/he is teaching? This isn't peculiar to Christian mission schools only but Islamic schools are also part of this differentiation and the entrenchment of sectionalism.

If Old Students Associations and Churches think that necessarily to be able to become a headmaster one must be a member of the church and also an old boy, then they must do the following:

1. Ensure that only Catholics, or Presbyterians as the case may be must be admitted to their schools.

2. Old boys or girls must also ensure that only old boys or girls teach in their schools.

3. They must pay all their staff and develop or build their schools infrastructure alone.

When the above three things are done, then I would not have a problem with their interference in the various schools of which they are affiliated to.

The state pays all teaching and non-teaching staff of all public schools across the country and provide infrastructure as well. All citizens must have equal access to these schools and must also be allowed to head any school they teach when they are due and not be substituted because they do not belong to the old students or the Church.

Our country Ghana, is already saddled with ethnocentrism, tribalism, regionalism, partisanship and all manner of affiliations and associations. The least I expect is the church and old student associations to compound our already convoluted situation.

In sum, the church, old boys or girls exist because the school does. The church can continue to support their missions school and provide the template to instil the moral lessons but cannot insist that school prefects and headmasters or mistresses must be their members.

The moral turpitude being exhibited by Ghanaians should inform the church that, the insistence of a head teacher being a member of the church has not helped in any way to ameliorate the situation. We all have friends who attended some of these missionary schools and their behaviour isn't different from those who attended other non-missionary schools. So what's the point?

Article 17 (2) of our constitution states "A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status. Subsection 3 states, "For the purposes of this article, "discriminate" means to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, gender, occupation, religion or creed, whereby persons of one description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another description are not made subject or are granted privileges or advantages which are not granted to persons of another description".

This implies that for old students and the church to be behaving this way is an affront to our constitution and must cease with immediate effect.

Religious persuasion should not be the basis for which the church discriminates against others. Article 21(c) of the constitution states "freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice. So, why would that be used against anyone in the 21st century?

I expect religion to be the rallying point for us all to converge and see one another as the same. So, for a Christian school to discriminate against another Christian just because they do not belong to the same church is disturbing to say the least. If we are all sleeping, we should all wake up and speak up. If our religious bodies are entrenching sectionalism, then our fight to achieve a unitary state where we see each other first as Ghanaians before any other identification would be very difficult for us to achieve. Let the church lead the way not by mere semblance but by deeds and our nation state would stand to benefit.

D. C. KWAME KWAKYE

Broadcast Journalist

GBC, Radio Central

Cape Coast

[email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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